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A cyclist was tragically killed at the intersection of Henry Avenue and Hermit Lane in the Wissahickon section of Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, according to media reports and police.

The driver of the vehicle remained on the scene after killing 17-year old Samuel Ozer, who was well-known and loved in his Manayunk cycling community. No charges have been filed, yet.

Friends remembered Sam as kind and loving. A recent graduate of the AIM Academy, he was a former captain of their mountain biking team, and worked at the Trek Manayunk bike shop on Main Street.

There will be a Memorial Ride of Silence on Tuesday from Cadence Multisport (3740 Main St) in Manayunk at 6pm. Cyclists will begin gathering at 5:45pm. 

“Please give your kids, folks who ride bicycles, and the rest of the folks you love some extra love and understanding as we all process this tragic loss,” noted Pennsylvania Interscholastic Mountain Biking, on their Facebook page, regarding the crash.

The incident is a grim reminder of the danger of Philadelphia’s urban highways, like Henry Avenue, Lincoln Drive, Whitaker Avenue, Roosevelt Boulevard, and countless others, all of which see higher rates of traffic deaths, compared to most streets in Philadelphia.

Henry Avenue has long been dangerous for all road users, and residents have been begging public officials for interventions.

For example, speed cameras were proposed by State Representative Pam DeLissio two years ago as part of the Roosevelt Boulevard speed camera legislation, but the Henry Ave component was removed before the final legislation was approved.

Similarly, engineering changes for Henry Avenue have been approved by PennDOT and the Philadelphia Streets Department, but most argue the interventions do not go far enough, as they keep Henry Avenue the multi-lane speedway through neighborhoods.

A horrifying 10 people have died in traffic crashes on Henry Avenue over the last five years, according to our traffic counts. Half of those killed have met their fate within 800 feet of the particular intersection where the cyclist was killed on Sunday. 

The City and PennDOT have moved to make changes to Henry Avenue — but it has clearly taken much too long. Several years ago, concerned neighbors in the area met with PennDOT’s Project Manager to ask that Henry Ave and Barnes Streets be included in the long-planned Henry Ave design project, notes Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia member Suzanne Hagner.

“There was growing concern about the crashes and loss of life on the section of Henry Ave that borders the Wissahickon neighborhood,” Hagner said. “We were listened to and pleased with the new design as well as the safety measures that Streets Department installed on that section of highway, which has been effective on a dangerous curve.”

With her neighbors, Hagner was able to get the City to agree to some safety measures in that area, including flex posts in the median to deter motorists from making illegal turns onto Hermit Lane, as she explained in her presentation at the 2020 Vision Zero Conference.

“But we must do better to protect all our citizens,” Hagner added.

PennDOT is still taking comments on its proposal for a Henry Avenue project. Among the highlights: a side path has been proposed for Henry Avenue, between Walnut Lane and School House Lane, which is good, but still lacks the tough-but-necessary changes that need to happen so fewer people are killed and injured along this road. Long-term projects, like this one, should be dedicated to Vision Zero, not the Philly Shrug.

You can read more about the project and submit your comments here.

We believe everyone reading this should go comment on the project’s page, now. Comments are due by 5PM on Monday June, 29th.

Henry Avenue is a street that does not need to be left the way it is now. Doing so is actually incredibly irresponsible.

Among the changes to the street PennDOT does not propose, but should:

  • A lower speed limit: the current speed limit is 35 miles per hour, and motorists regularly drive double that.
  • Speed cameras: Henry Avenue almost received much-needed speed cameras in 2018, when the Roosevelt Boulevard bill was moving through the state Legislature. This enforcement technology should be installed all over Henry Avenue to keep motorists from gaining the kind of speed that kills pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists.
  • Road diet: Just because Henry Avenue is an urban highway doesn’t mean it needs to be. As long as work is already being done on the Avenue, why not install, or even pilot, a lane reduction? Lane reductions have been proven to bring down vehicle speeds where used.
  • Protected bike lanes: This is a no brainer. Protected bike lanes keep cyclists safer and reduce motor vehicle speed. There are conflict zones on parts of Henry Avenue that force cyclists to compete with vehicles going at least 35 miles per hour, but usually more like 60 or 70.
  • Pedestrian refuges: Henry Avenue goes through several neighborhoods, with all sorts of businesses and residential buildings — big box stores, restaurants, apartments, houses, schools, gas stations, a golf course (and, yes, people cross Henry Avenue in golf carts) and entrances to the Wissahickon Park. We need to give the people crossing Henry Avenue a safe, reliable way to get across the street that doesn’t involve putting their lives in danger, and pedestrian refuges are a part of that.

The Bicycle Coalition and Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia mourn for the victim and his family. We will continue working to make this street, and all streets, safer for everyone who wants to use them. These sorts of crashes, while they seem inevitable, are not. There are interventions we can make to change our roads for the better. We just need to value human life over speed.

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